The Migratory Forest

[Image: Christmas trees for sale outside St. Mark’s Church in New York City; a video-still taken November 30th, 2009].

“The most surreal part of Christmas,” according to Strange Harvest, “is the migratory forest that pops up all around us for three weeks.”

It’s a long forgotten middle European folk-rite that has become buried deep in our seasonal behaviour. Now, thousands of years later, we re-enact this midwinter over and over again in a thoroughly contemporary manner. Christmas trees now may well be entirely and unashamedly artificial objects: pink, fibre optic, colour-changing nylon. Real organic trees appear in the most surreal of locations: strapped to the cab of a crane high above the city, in arrays over the facades of department stores, in the sterile shiny lobbies of corporate institutions, and in the front rooms of homes sitting on carpets which, if you think hard enough, become the mossy floor of a forest…

It’s an image that has stuck with me: Christmas and its ubiquitous tree treated as a kind of vernacular landscape practice—or folk forestry—more than a religious event with Rapturous implications.

“Perhaps Christmas trees are a ghostly return of the mysterious ancient forest,” Strange Harvest suggests, “a rolling back of the mechanisms and constructs of civilisation that addresses the Big Bad Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood inside us all.”

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